Practicalities Health


Health care in Russia is free for Russians and emergency treatment is free for everybody but the service is not always of a high standard outside major cities. Around 30% of Russians are satisfied with Russian health care, there are a few reasons for this - bad conditions at most clinics, quite old equipment, bureaucracy and queues. Although health care is officially free, some services are provided only for an extra payment. About 10% of clinics are private, which provide much better service than state hospitals and have high-tech equipment and better service. Some clinics in big cities like Moscow, St Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Novosibirsk have English-speaking staff.

If something happens to you and you need emergency help dial any of the numbers below:
Medical emergency phone number in Russia is 03 (103) and 112.
If you use a sim card of your country dial +7(city code where you are located) 03-111.
NOTE that emergency help is free, but if you need outpatient treatment for a few days, the hospital will charge you the cost of your stay, though if it is not a private clinic it should be quite cheap. If you have insurance you should present it to the emergency doctor and he will decide what clinic they will send you as not all clinics accept foreign insurance policies.


Should you be unfortunate enough to need good emergency treatment in Russia you would have to pay a lot or use your insurance. Therefore insurance really is indispensable, especially if you need outpatient, transportation or emergency evacuation home.


Although the biggest and cleanest lake in the world is located in Russia, it is not recommended to drink tap water elsewhere in the country without boiling it first for 10 minutes. Untreated water is unlikely to give you anything worse than an upset stomach, but it won't taste very nice. Water is sold in all shops and is very cheap. Ice in restaurants should be fine however. Another place where you can find clean water is at churches and monasteries. There are lots of churches in Russia, so you can easily can find not only clean but also holy water - it is normally in big tanker just next to the entrance. Also be aware of drinking water from unknown natural sources even deep in the taiga.  
When travelling by train, including on the Trans-Siberian, be aware that on Russian trains water in the bathroom is not drinkable, this water should be ok to use to brush your teeth and wash your face, but if you have a sensitive stomach you might want to avoid using it completely. Drinking water on trains is located in the boiler and also sold from the wagon attendant (provodnitsa). 


Russia's national drink is vodka and there is a really very big choice available (usually a whole supermarket aisle's worth). But be careful choosing a shop or brand - there still lots of fake vodka around which even kills lots of Russians every year. Our advice is to buy vodka only in big supermarkets, the most popular brands among Russians are Putinka, Stolichnaya, Green Mark (Zelenaya Marka) and Russian Standard (Russky Standard). Of course, also beware of drinking too much, eating between shots always helps and you will notice your Russian co-drinkers doing this. Never leave your drinks unattended in bars and clubs, especially ones which are known to be popular with foreigners.


You don't need any special vaccinations for a trip to Russia. However if you go to rural or wild areas like the taiga or Baikal in summer we advise you to be vaccinated against tick-borne encephalitis as ticks are very active especially from May to June. Also it is recommended to have up-to-date vaccinations for poliomyelitis, diphtheria, tetanus and hepatitis A.